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Green light for Sicilian regasification plant

A SICILIAN regional planning board has given the go-ahead for a major new regasification plant to be built at Porto Empedocle near Agrigento. Speaking to journalists at a conference in Milan, Fulvio Conte, chief executive of Italian electricity company Enel, which has a 90% stake in the project, said the decision marked a major step forward as Italy seeks to diversify its energy sources. The Porto Empedocle project is one of a tiny group of such plants to have won approval in the face of stiff opposition from local citizens and environmentalists in the areas where they are to be sited. This project was no exception and it remains unclear whether the efforts to block it will continue. As a result, and despite the determination of successive governments of both left and right to add to the single, small regasification plant now in operation, Italy has struggled to combat a dangerous dependence on just a few outside suppliers of energy in general and gas in particular. Mr Conte said the new Enel-Nuove Energie plant will have a capacity of 8bn cu m per year, and will take up to five years to build at a cost of around €600m ($774.6m). He added that initial gas supplies for the plant would be sourced from Nigeria, with Egypt, Qatar, Algeria and the UAE, aomg other possible suppliers. The plant will be built at a shoreside location a little outside the existing port. As part of the project, its backers will lengthen an existing pier by 800 m and build another 310 m pier at right angles to it to create a protected berthing area for an anticipated 100 ship calls per year. Enel said Italy consumes more than 80 bn cu m of gas every year, more than 80% of which is imported. Around 75% of those imports come from five supplier countries: Algeria, Russia, Libya, Holland and Norway. Italy has just one 3.5 bn cu m capacity plant in operation, off La Spezia, though a new 8 bn cu m facility is due to come online later this year offshore Rovigo. A string of other projects remain in limbo, among them a BG Group facility in Brindisi that is still awaiting a final go-ahead years after it was first approved, and after €200m of initial expenditure.

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